Former NBA great Yao Ming on 'Linsanity' - Today's THV

UNDATED (CNN) -- Linsanity may be on the wane but only just. Jeremy Lin has become the first New York-based athlete, from a team game, to feature on the cover of Sports Illustrated two weeks running.

And fellow Harvard graduate, Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, tweeted, "Jeremy's cult has reached unfathomable levels. I am now the guy that went to school with Jeremy Lin."

Another ex-class mate who's living in China says the Lin-mania is even more intense over there. And although he's American born and bred, Jeremy Lin's popularity in Asia has been compared to that of Yao Ming.

Yes, he is a very big man with very big shoes to fill. Who will be the next Yao Ming? That question has now been answered. Ming says, "I am very surprised... very surprised".

Yao you're not alone, Jeremy Lin has taken everyone by surprise from the New York Knicks bench to starting star in just a matter of weeks.

The 'Linsanity' has sparked 'Lindemonium', those clunky headlines are wearing out their welcome and he's only just getting started. Ming says, "He's the kind of player I'd like to play with if I'm still a player. He's a team player and everybody likes the way he wins a game. Honestly he did much more than I'd expected of him."

Yao and Lin talk on the phone and swap messages. Like himself, Lin, he says is a trailblazer. Ming says, "He gives a lot of hope to kids with the same background like his, Asian-Americans- 2nd gen or maybe 3rd. They can follow in his footprints to have more confidence in playing basketball."

Yao has been there and seen it all. His 7 foot 6, frame busted down barriers, becoming basketball's first Chinese mega star. So if Jeremy Lin wants advice, he's come to the right place. Ming says, "There's no secret- I know people talk about me giving him tips. It's really not that. I just congratulate him and tell him I'm happy for him. That we'll support him and I'm a big fan of him."

This is where Yao gets his basketball fix now. Forced to retire because of injuries he's the owner of the Shanghai Sharks. They've made this year's China League playoffs. But even here the talk is of a player far from this court.

Here's a question: Who owns Jeremy Lin? Ask people here, well he's Chinese, his parents are from Taiwan, he's an American born in the states, but it's becoming a hot issue.

Even in sport, politics is never far away to Chinese, Taiwan independence is a red-button issue. Yao has a simple answer, "He's a basketball player." And right now, that's more than enough.

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24 Feb, 2012

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